Hiking a 45 Mile Day in Florida

ECT Day 296

Day 296: 45 miles

This morning I was pleasantly surprised to wake up around 5:00 a.m. and hear it no longer raining. Or at least it was raining soft enough that I couldn’t hear it outside. Last night it was raining so heavily all night you could hear it dumping down.

I wound up sleeping in a little bit and begin packing up just before 7am. The forecast looks good today, so I wasn’t feeling rushed. I don’t have a problem hiking into the night, so it doesn’t really matter what time I get started. I cleaned up at the fellowship hall to make sure it looked exactly how it had before I arrived. Then I got my backpack packed and got ready for the day. Everything I owned was perfectly dry. My shoes and socks were so dry it felt like they literally just come out of an oven.

I headed out from the fellowship hall around 7:30am and began walking the road. It was about a mile and a half to 2 miles before I got back to the Florida Trail. Luckily last night I only walked a fraction of that. Then Gary drove me the other mile between the gas station and the church. But today I have to walk it all. That’s not a bad price to pay to sleep indoors during a rainstorm though.

The fellowship hall at the church in Christmas, FL.

As I walked the road, I ate a banana. The pastor and his wife had left a bunch of fruit for me which was so nice of them. Honestly, they left me more food than I ever could’ve eaten. Especially because Gary had gotten me lunch just before I got there. By 8am I was back on the Florida trail. The trail followed along a road for a while and then got back onto an actual forested path.

The church was so flooded as I walked past in the morning.

My happy dry feet certainly didn’t last long. Last night it rained between two and 4 inches. From the looks of the trail, it was closer to 4 inches. Almost as soon as I got back on the trail, I was trudging through ankle deep water at least. The trail was completely flooded through. It wasn’t long in the morning before I was walking through even deeper water. One section where there was a bridge over a river was fully flooded. I was walking in the deep water just to climb up to the bridge over the river.

Road walking through Christmas before I got back to the flooded trail.

To be honest a couple of those moments tested me. I could feel myself wanting to get into my head about the water. It was incredibly deep and dark at times. Even though it was mostly clear and you knew it was just rainwater I was still kind of nervous. If rivers are overflowing, then technically an alligator could really be anywhere. Especially in shin deep water or deeper.

There were definitely some sections that went above my knees. In those moments I felt a little bit anxious. If I even let my mind consider the possibility of what was in the water it got me freaked out. But if I could just focus on walking and getting through then I was fine. I’m really not sure how I compartmentalized all of that. But I did.

The deep water didn’t just last a mile or two. I was trudging through deep water for the first few hours of the day. At one point I looked at the map and realized I had missed a possible high water alternate. There was a blue blaze the people frequently took because of the flooding on the trail. At that point when I noticed I was literally trudging through the deep water and could see only water up ahead of me. But it was a mile back to where the junction had split. So there was no way I was turning around. I just had to keep on going.

After walking in knee high water for miles I finally got somewhere fairly dry.

The deep swampy water went on for mile after mile. I just kept trying not to think about it. I felt pretty brave honestly. I was shocked that it didn’t bother me as much as I would’ve thought it would. A version of me just a couple of years ago could never have done that. That truly would’ve been my worst nightmare. I’ve probably said before that you couldn’t pay me any sum of money to walk through swamp. And here I am today doing it for free, and alone.

After continuing through the swamp for another couple of miles the trail went past a blue blaze. When I looked on far out I saw that there was a dirt road which followed a faster route around the swamp. It was a similar route to the blue blaze that I had the option of taking a couple miles back but had missed. It felt nice to get out of the swampy woods. The road I was walking was still flooded knee-deep in some portions. But at least some stretches of it were dry. I was able to make faster pace on the road then I was in the woods.

This was the trail. Even though it looks like a pond.

I got to say though some deep sections on the road freaked me out more than the woods. When you look around you and see a bunch of shrubs and trees it’s hard to imagine an alligator just laying in that water. But when you’re on the road surrounded by knee deep water for 20 feet on all sides of you, you can picture an alligator in there. Alligators go into swimming pools for crying out loud. I went through those deep sections along the road as quickly as possible.

It wasn’t long before I was back on the Florida trail. But the flooding certainly did not stop. Today there’s gonna be a lot of road walking but clearly I’m not there yet. Just prior to making it out onto the road there was one of the deepest sections of swampy water yet. Because of all the plants in the water it really didn’t look that deep. But as I begin to walk forward on the “trail” it wound up being insanely deep.

In most places it was thigh high. And something about it being so overgrown and swamp like terrified me more than any other stretch of the day. I could see the water continue ahead of me with no sign of stopping. I was trying to go pretty fast through that stretch of trail. Never has a road walk sounded so good.

Eventually I made it onto a road which was a relief. Sure, my feet are still going to be soaking wet but at least I’m not literally walking through knee deep water anymore. That was definitely the longest stretch of trail so far where you continuously walking through water. And I did it all by myself. That makes me feel pretty proud. I feel myself getting braver and braver every single day. That’s one of my favorite things about this thru hiking thing.

For a mile or so I walked along a quiet side road. It was paved but had a dead end, so it wasn’t particularly busy. But then I made it out to the main highway. Apparently, the trail followed the highway for about 6-7 miles. Originally when I saw the highway, I figured I had taken a wrong turn. There must have been some kind of a bike path or another place to walk. But to my surprise the Florida trail was literally following the highway.

The quiet dead end road that I was prior to getting to the busy highway.

It began to rain lightly as I walked. But it was only a sprinkle, so I didn’t mind. The road was busy and the cars were going fast. I made sure to walk in the grass next to the shoulder just to be extra safe. While I walked, I did some writing. Recently I’ve been using my new headphones and doing voice to text. That’s been helping me to get my blogging done while I walk. It’s way less tiring on the hands, and you can do it without looking down at your phone. I go back in and edit the blogs anyway before I post them. So it’s been a much simpler process that’s taking me a lot less time.

Around 1pm I was still walking alongside the highway and doing my writing. The day has been moving on pretty quickly. But I knew I had a long way to go. Because I’m planning to meet my family for Christmas, I’m on a bit of a time crunch. Nothing major but I have to at least do a marathon every day for the next week. Which I probably would’ve done anyway. Especially because there’s really not a lot of resupply locations between Christmas, FL and Okeechobee.

Because of that though I plan to do a pretty long day today. I just want to start the week off on a good note. The more miles I get done on any particular day will just help me as the week goes on. Then if for some reason I wanna do a slightly shorter day it won’t affect my average mileage. Lately though a marathon is a pretty doable day. You don’t have to start particularly early and you don’t really have to walk into the dark. The only reason you have to be hiking in the dark in the morning or the evening is if you want to do a 30+ mile day.

I walked along the main highway for a while. Eventually the Florida Trail turned off of the highway and onto a different road. It was still a fast road but much less busy than the highway. I’d been walking for over 5 hours at this point and had gone about 20 miles. I figured now was as good time to finally take my first break of the day. Recently my body’s been feeling really good and I’ve been able to push further in between breaks. That definitely helps the day go by faster.

A flooded water way just off the road.

I sat down and pulled my charging brick out to charge my phone. Then I was in the process of taking my shoes off and socks off which were soaked. When I was doing that, a truck pulled over into the grass. My initial thought was that someone was worried about me and wanted to make sure I was ok. Someone stuck their head out of the truck and I yelled back “I’m fine!”. But they weren’t just any stranger.

The guy came up and said, “Peg Leg?”, like he definitely knew it was me. Then he introduced himself as Nancy Drew. I was ecstatic. Sparkle and Trucker talked about Nancy Drew and Ghost all the time. Those are two hikers that they hiked with back in Florida and all the way up to the Appalachian trail. Then Nancy Drew and Ghost went and hiked the continental divide trail this year. All in all, they probably hiked over 4500 miles this year which is awesome.

It was so cool to put a name with the face for once. I heard all the time in Canada about Nancy Drew. Sparkle couldn’t say enough good things about him and Ghost. Apparently, Nancy Drew had come out to see Beer Run. He didn’t realize that Beer Run and I weren’t currently hiking together so he thought he was going to see me too. Then when he was driving back he saw me along the road.

I sat down in the grass and Nancy Drew brought me a Coke. That was such an awesome surprise. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone or go by any kind of stores or anything today. I also wasn’t completely sure where Beer Run was along the trail. I figured he was up ahead, but you really never know. Apparently, he’s about 6 miles ahead. Which when you think about how long it takes to hike 6 miles is actually pretty far.

I hung out with Nancy Drew alongside the road for a while. It was so nice to talk to another hiker. He told me all sorts of stuff about the continental divide trail. He just finished hiking it this year. I mentioned that I want to hike the CDT next year. And he has plans to hike the Pacific crest Trail next year, which I’ve hiked one and a half times.

All in all, it was such a wonderful break. I thought I’d just be sitting there along the road all by myself. Instead, I got to talk to a friend for about an hour which was fantastic. And even better, a friend I’ve never met yet. I just heard so much about. We talked for a long while and then eventually I had to start putting my shoes on and getting ready to go. I plan to do a pretty big day today and I’m only 20 miles in. I’ll definitely be walking for another few hours at least.

I said goodbye to Nancy Drew and then he drove off. I got my backpack on and kept on walking the road. What an awesome treat. I love a good surprise. Leaving there the same old road walk continued. It was a quieter and slower road. Plus, the grass next to the road was much flatter and wider. It made it really easy to walk right next to the road safely.

This road walk apparently continues for another 22 more miles. So I’m not really sure where I’m going to wind up camping tonight. There’s no camping in between here and the end of the road walk 20+ miles away. It’s something I knew about before starting this but wasn’t particularly concerned about. I always have the mentality that once it gets dark you can typically find a place to camp. But we will just have to see what happens. I guess the worst-case scenario if I can’t find a place to camp is that I just keep on going. After about 23 more miles I’ll pass a designated campsite.

A bent over mileage sign alongside the road walk.

I was on the road for the rest of the day basically. I started hiking again around 3 PM and didn’t really stop until well after dark. The road was tedious but easy enough. I continued along as the sun began to set. It was really beautiful to watch the whole sunset. At this point I was starting to get a little nervous. I had gone by some marked “shady spots” on Far Out. But they were really just trees and bushes alongside the road. Even the largest ones that I saw probably wouldn’t have provided protection from the road. The idea of sleeping right next to the road definitely did an appeal to me.

I couldn’t imagine that someone driving by wouldn’t pull off to see what I was doing. In my mind I knew I was probably going to be doing a 45-mile day and pushing those 20+ more miles to the nearest campsite. I was a little optimistic that I might find something along the way, but it didn’t seem likely. There was nothing marked on far out in the comments said not to camp along the road. For obvious reasons.

After the sun went down, I was a little nervous for a while. I just kept thinking about walking in the dark alone at night. I don’t mind doing it on trail, but doing it in a public place is totally different. Every car that drives by me is full of a person or people. And you don’t know what their motivations and intentions are. It’s much safer to hike at night in the woods when your biggest concern is seeing an animal. I’m much more worried about people than animals.

Before the sun completely set a car pulled over with a couple inside. They were so curious about what I was doing and were wanting to know if I needed a ride. I told him I didn’t need a ride and that I was walking to Key West. They were baffled by that. Then they asked where I was coming from, and they were even more caught off guard. The two of them were incredibly impressed by what I’ve been doing this year it made me happy to talk to them they were so nice.

They were curious where I was walking to tonight because they live in the area and they know that nothing is around. I said that I just pretty much walk until I find a place to camp. Tonight is kind of an exception because there’s not really a lot of options. They said that they had a treehouse on their property and gave me their address and their phone number. They said if it got late and I didn’t find a place to camp that I could call them.

That was such a tempting situation. The idea of going back to someone’s house and sleeping in a private room and being able to shower sounded amazing. That’s an absolute dream. But for some reason I didn’t feel comfortable with it. Maybe it’s because it was a man and the woman. I’ve watched one too many true crime videos about women being used to trick another woman. There’s something disarming about women, children, and elderly people. You let your guard down around them. I always try to keep my guard up even higher in such situations.

The couple seemed incredibly nice. I’m sure they would’ve opened their home to me and shown me nothing but kindness. But when you’re walking alone you have to have your guard up.

Road walking as the sun began to set.

As the evening went on each car that passed by me made me a little bit more nervous. Just the existence of cars at all felt concerning to me. Every single one had a possible person inside with any kind of intention in the world. I decided to unclip my mace off of my fanny pack and just carry it while I walked. It was kind of windy out though so I thought about the fact that if I sprayed it would probably just blow back in my face. It’s not going to come to that though.

Pulling out my mace as I walked the road as the sun set.

Carrying it in my hand made me feel a little bit safer. The road walk was nothing special in particular. I went by some pastures and farms. For the most part it was wide open land with nothing around. Just after dark I turn off the main road and got onto a slightly quieter road. A car really only went by every 30 minutes or so. 

My body was tired, but I wasn’t in pain. I knew that if I had to push those 45 miles I could do it. After a little while I did sit down and do some stretching in a driveway. My hips were tight and I wanted to nip it in the bud before it got worse. I still had about 15 miles ahead of me at this point. I knew I would be walking for hours and hours. I did the math, and it was looking like I’d probably get to camp by 10:30pm. That’s if I maintained pace and didn’t stop off anymore. 

I think it was easier to do a big day today because I didn’t realize I was going to. Waking up in my mind I was thinking I would do a pretty decent mileage day. I was hoping to do at least 30 miles. I’m really in no rush, I just have plans to meet my dad in Okochobee before Christmas. That’s when my dad is flying in and he’s gonna pick me up in Okeechobee and drive me to see family who are staying in Tampa. After this long day I know I’ll definitely arrive in town in time  

The sky was looking beautiful tonight over the road.

Later into the evening I decided to listen to music out loud while I walked. There’s just something magical about that. It’s hard to be as stressed and anxious when you’re listening to some good music. Random things that you might not normally even notice during the daytime can be creepy at night. I was trying to keep my sorority high. 

As the night went on more cars drove by on occasion. I was pleasantly surprised though there wasn’t a single hero on the street who felt the need to pull over. Dozens upon dozens of cars drove past me walking in the dark along the road and no one ever pulled over. Every time a car drove past, I just kept thinking to myself, “Don’t slow, down slow down, don’t stop.” The idea of talking to someone at night in a car just creeped me out.

I was making good time and was right on track to get to camp before 11pm. Eventually the road brought me right into a small town. There was a church there was gorgeous. It had picnic tables and a playground next door. And strict instructions on Far Out that you could not camp there. Camping at the church would have shaved off about 5 miles for me tonight. It would’ve been about a 40 or 41 mile day instead. That would’ve been nice.

I went straight through the small town and continued along the road. I got off the quiet back road and merged onto a much busier highway at this point. Yes, I had to worry more about cars hitting me. But I was less worried about people now. Because the road was a lot more populated, I wasn’t worried about someone coming over and bothering me. Cars were driving by constantly. That was actually a really nice feeling. Quieter road made me anxious, and I’ve been on one for hours.

Walking along the busier stretch of road, about 43 miles into the day.

The last few hours of the day were dragging on. I just kept telling myself, “You’re almost there, you can do it, just keep going.” I had to walk along a busy highway for about 2 miles. Then the road turned off and you went into some kind of recreation area. It was a long dirt road and there was a big sign for the Florida trail. There was actually a mailbox with a trail log too. At this point in the day, I had been 100% sure that Beer Run was up ahead of me. When I saw Nancy Drew earlier, he said Beer Run was about 6 miles ahead. But he didn’t sign the trail register!

The road walk 10pm fit! Rain jacket for warmth and pepper spray for safety!

There was really no place to camp besides here. I just walked the road and would’ve loved to end the day sooner, but there were literally no options. So I was curious where Beer Run wound up. Maybe he didn’t want to do the whole road walk and got picked up or something.

Getting back on trail after doing a 30+ mile road walk.

I wrote in the trail register and then continued on into the woods. I had less than a mile to go to get to my campsite for the night. At this point in the day my feet were finally entirely dry from trudging through swamp earlier. But of course in the last half mile of the day there was a puddle that I just couldn’t get around. The rest of the ground was completely dry, but this one section was completely flooded. I had no choice but to tramp right on through. 

It was just before 11pm when I got into the Jane Green campsite. It was a really nice designated site with a fire ring, a picnic table, and a bench. I was so shocked not to see Beer Run there. I knew he had been ahead of me and this would’ve been a big push for him today too. But there weren’t any other options. He must’ve gotten picked up or something. I was just glad that I made it here.

I can’t believe I did 45 miles today. That is easily my biggest day this year on the Eastern Continental Trail. The only day I’ve ever done bigger than that it was a 54-mile day on the Pacific crest Trail. Those are the only two times ever that I did over 40 miles in general. It took about 16 hours to get those miles in. So it’s really not about being fast it’s just about hiking all day long. That’s what wears on you and that’s what’s so difficult.

I got set up in my tent. And upon laying down I immediately felt my sleeping pad pop. It sunk down to the ground even though it had been fully inflated. I just slept on it last night and packed it up this morning. How on earth did this happen? Somehow I kept my cool and began inspecting the pad.

Even though it was so ridiculously late at night and I was exhausted I knew it was important to fix this. I have about six days until I get to Okeechobee where I’m getting picked up. I’m gonna be doing some pretty good miles to get there. The last thing I need is to get bad rest over this next week.

I started moving the pad around and listening for leaks. In the end I actually heard a leak and was able to find where it was. The whole process was made easier because the hole was huge. There has been something underneath the tent that punctured a hole in the pad. A little piece of pine cone or something that I later felt and moved out from under the tent.

Lucky for me I was carrying a patch kit. So I alcohol wiped my pad and then put a replacement piece of patch right over the tear. While I waited for it to really stick on there, I got fully ready in my tent. Then I put more air in the pad and was pleasantly surprised that it held air. That went from being a total catastrophe to a funny story in about five minutes. That was the last thing I needed after the end of a long day.

I laid up in my tent for a little while thinking about the day. I felt really proud of myself for going so far. It’s nice to know I still have it in me. Even after walking over 5,000 miles this year, I can still manage to do a 45-mile day. That makes me feel pretty good. My body is holding up nicely. I ate something in my tent, got comfortable, and called the night. I had no trouble falling asleep tonight. The hardest thing is going to be getting up tomorrow and doing it all over again.

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Comments 10

  • Herdy : Dec 22nd

    WOW! What a big milage day with all the water you walk through. I rather worry about Grizzlies than alligators, I couldn’t of done that. Stay safe your awesome!

  • thetentman : Dec 22nd

    45 miles! Wow. Congrats.

    Have you considered water skis for the flooded parts?


  • David O. : Dec 22nd

    Beautiful effort. I have no right to be proud of you but I am! I spent the day with my daughter, a few years younger than you, helping some Venezuelan refugees settle into a house here. She speaks Spanish, I don’t. I’m proud of her too. 😎

  • Ed : Dec 22nd

    Merry Christmas. Thanks for the adventure all these past months.

  • Rushmore : Dec 22nd

    What a day!
    Have a great time with your family!
    Merry Christmas!

  • Old man Paul : Dec 23rd

    Awesome post. You’re a very brave woman. God Bless.

  • Rem : Dec 23rd

    From start to almost finish, whats has amazed me most of all following your journey is your attitude has been steadfastly gratitude.

  • Steve : Dec 23rd

    It’s not just alligators you have to watch for. There are pythons down there now, not to forget the cottonmouth water moccasin. And panthers, not that many but they are there. I would trade the pocket sized pepper spray for a can of bear mace or two. More effective on bears, panthers, aggressive dogs and defective people. Keep the little mace as a backup.

  • Jeff Greene : Dec 24th

    Crazy mileage, particularly through standing water! Keep on keeping on!

  • Alex Barnett : Dec 26th

    You are super girl. Hike thru water above your knees like it was a day in the park, No problem you just knock 45 miles.

    Keep on trucking



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